For Reel

The Hidden Fortress (1958)
November 28, 2015, 3:46 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Akira Kurosawa
4 Stars
The Hidden FortressAkira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress was the director’s most commercially successful film at the time of its release and also one that critics were late to admire. It is as broadly humorous as any of the director’s films, and in his first dalliance with widescreen TohoScope cinematography, some argued that Kurosawa had Hollywoodized his form after a series of more niche, complex films such as the Maxim Gorky adaptation The Lower Depths. And yet the incongruity of Kurosawa’s most earthbound film giving way to one of his grandest epics is familiar of The Hidden Fortress itself, which is a film brilliantly defined by its contradictions. The first image involves a pair of greedy peasants (Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara) who bicker as they traverse a vast, seemingly barren landscape until a dead man falls into frame and his pursuers follow suit. Similarly, the widescreen cinematography is as interested in showing the distances between characters (such as the scenes in which Toshirô Mifune stalks the peasants) as it is in showing crowds (as in the staircase sequence). The most famous contradiction, of course, is that the film is told from the point-of-view of lowly, predatory peasants, despite involving the larger-than-life heroics of a princess (Misa Uehara) and her escort (Mifune). Kurosawa’s games in constantly challenging his audience’s expectations makes The Hidden Fortress not his most cynical and democratized film, but rather his most playful.

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